New York, September 8, 2004—The Academy of American Poets announced today that Jeff Clark has been selected as the recipient of the 2004 James Laughlin Award for his second collection of poems, Music and Suicide (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Mr. Clark will receive a cash prize of $5,000, and the Academy will purchase copies of Music and Suicide for distribution to its members. Elizabeth Alexander, Mary Jo Bang and Susan Stewart were the judges for this year's award. Finalists for the award included: Shut Up, Shut Down by Mark Nowak (Coffee House Press) and The Second Person by C. Dale Young (Zoo Press). On choosing the winning manuscript, head juror Mary Jo Bang wrote:
Clark's poems are "marvelous" pictures that undergo metamorphosis before our eyes. Each poem is a movie played on the screen of a highly imaginative mind -- the mood moves between subtle humor and a lacerating melancholy, all against an obviously constructed reality. Music is the constant background; annihilation of the writerly self, the shadowing risk. Think Luis Bu˝uel with a dash of Miss Lonelyhearts.
Jeff Clark was born in southern California in 1971. His first book, The Little Door Slides Back, was published by Sun & Moon in 1997. His book design studio, Quemadura, has been based in Michigan since late 2003.
The James Laughlin Award is given to commend and support a poet's second book of poetry. The award was established by a gift to the Academy from the Drue Heinz Trust in honor of the poet and publisher James Laughlin (1914-1997). As a sophomore at Harvard College, James Laughlin founded New Directions, one of the most important publishers of twentieth-century literature. Writers whose work has been published by New Directions include Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Denise Levertov, Henry Miller, Ezra Pound, Delmore Schwartz, Gertrude Stein, Tennessee Williams, and William Carlos Williams. Mr. Laughlin was the author of numerous books of fiction, essays, and poetry, including Collected Poems (1993), The Man in the Wall (1993), and Random Stories (1990).
The Drue Heinz Trust is a private charitable foundation, whose director is Drue Heinz, the widow of the "57 Varieties" former chairman, the current publisher of the Paris Review, and the former publisher of Antaeus, the international quarterly of contemporary literature. Mrs. Heinz and James Laughlin were long-time friends and colleagues, sharing a vital interest in good writing.
The Academy of American Poets is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets at all stages of their careers. The Academy serves millions of individuals each year through outreach, arts education, and the most important collection of awards for poetry in the United States. The Academy's major programs include National Poetry Month, Online Poetry Classroom, Poets.org, and the Poetry Audio Archive. For more information on the Academy, visit www.poets.org.
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